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Two-minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against No. 11 Oregon

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 25, 2019

Don’t take your eyes off …

Most probably didn’t anticipate Brandon Arconado being such a key figure in Washington State’s offense, but things came much easier for quarterback Anthony Gordon and the the Cougars with the “Y” receiver back in the fold against Colorado. Arconado’s ascent this season has been impressive, if not remarkable. The former walk-on had four catches for 75 yards entering the year, but he’s already logged three 100-yard games this season and had his most recent one against the Buffaloes, with five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. “Out of all the guys we played last week, he’s probably the slowest one,” Mike Leach said. “And Arconado had the biggest impact of any receiver in that game, which just goes to show you a guy that’ll do exactly what you tell him to do, be exactly where you want him to be, exactly when you want him to be there and has a sense of what’s going on, can flat out outplay people.”

When WSU has the ball …

Fans have clamored for running back Max Borghi to touch the ball more. Their wishes were granted in the Colorado game, when the sophomore ran it 12 times and caught it nine times for a career-high 21 touches. The Cougars haven’t altered their identity in the past four games against Oregon, but they’ve been more balanced than usual, running the ball an average of 29.7 times per game. That included a 30-carry game in 2015, a 40-carry game in 2016 and at least 24 carries in 2017 and ’18. This season, WSU is averaging 17 carries per game, but it has three games with at least 20 or more. There could be an opportunity to run against an Oregon team that gave up 140 yards and 5.8 yard per carry to Washington’s Salvon Ahmed last Saturday. Borghi won’t lead the conference in rushing yards, but he could lead it in yards per carry and is currently No. 1 at 7.3 yards per carry.

When Oregon has the ball …

If the Ducks have done their homework, they’ll know the Cougars are susceptible against the run. That’s true this season for a WSU team that’s allowing 177 rushing yards per game and 172 in Pac-12 games, and it’s been true in this series, even as the Cougars have swiped the past four games from the Ducks. In those four, Oregon has rushed for 814 yards and eight touchdowns – half of that coming in the 2015 game that saw Royce Freeman and the Ducks go for 410 yards on the ground. These 2019 Ducks will come at WSU with a fleet of capable running backs. Oregon’s current rushing leader is C.J. Verdell, with 89 carries for 496 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Dye has 339 yards on 56 carries and Cyrus Habibi-Likio sparked the Ducks in their last game, carrying it 14 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. He leads the Ducks crew with six rushing touchdowns.

Did you know?

Herbert and former Washington State quarterback Alex Brink share an alma mater: Eugene’s Sheldon High School. Brink, who works as a color analyst on the Cougars’ radio broadcasts with Matt Chazanow, played for the Irish from 2000-03 and went 35-3 as the school’s starting quarterback. Brink passed for 3,946 yards in his final season at Sheldon and led the Irish to a state championship, accounting for three touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Lake Oswego. Herbert was a three-star prospect coming out of Sheldon and went 10-2 in his final season with the Irish, throwing for 3,130 yards and 37 touchdowns. Brink and Herbert were also standouts on the baseball diamond for Sheldon. Brink spent seven years playing professional football, but returned to Eugene when his career ended and this week announced the arrival of a baby boy.

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